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In the third quarter of Sunday's New York Knicks win over the Miami Heat, veteran point guard Baron Davis suffered a horrific knee injury (available to view after the jump, if you like awful things). He was taken off in a stretcher, and pretty much everyone watching knew that he had suffered a serious injury that would keep him out for quite some time.
On Monday, we discovered the severity of the damage, and it's not good. As announced by the Knicks on Twitter, the MRI of Davis' right knee showed a partial tear of the patella tendon and complete tears of the MCL and ACL. Howard Beck of The New York Times followed up that recovery from that is typically 12 months, but even that seems optimistic considering Davis would be 34 at the time of that comeback, has suffered several other bad knee injuries in the past, and has been dealing with a bulging disc in his back. On top of that, he will be a free agent and is unlikely to have the support of a franchise during rehab.
[Marc J. Spears: Blake Griffin refuses to bend in Clippers' OT win]
In other words, we have probably seen the last of Baron Davis in the NBA. With that in mind, forgive me if the rest of this post sounds like a discarded verse from the Skid Row track "I Remember You" — from the day he first suited up for UCLA in 1997 to his last season with the Golden State Warriors in 2008, Davis was my favorite basketball player. While his career was near its end anyway, and he was unlikely to be any more than an adequate backup for several more seasons, it's still sad to say goodbye.
As a freshman at UCLA, Baron was the most athletic point guard of all time (yes, greater than Derrick Rose). He blew out his knee in the NCAA tournament later that season, but he returned as a sophomore nearly fully recovered and came through with some of the greatest highlights you'll ever see on a college basketball court. He struggled with turnovers and fouls, but there were few prospects more exciting. If you don't believe me, just watch this video.
He was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Hornets and had difficulties finding his way as an NBA point guard. Yet, within those first few years, there were very high highs, including several playoff triple-doubles, an injury-replacement All-Star nod in 2002, and the general sense that he was on the brink of something truly special. There were plenty of injuries, though, and things ended poorly as he feuded with head coach Paul Silas and was traded for pennies on the dollar to the Golden State Warriors in 2005.
His Warriors tenure will be remembered best of all, if only for his incandescent performance as leader of the "We Believe" squad that upset the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. His swagger, skill and dominance marked one of the few times in Davis' career where everything came together and he looked like the superstar he always had the potential to become. That his reign at the top was so short-lived — one series, really, although his explosive dunk on Andrei Kirilenko in the second round will be a highlight fixture for years — helps explain the peculiar situation of his career. Baron was amazing, loved by many, and at times genuinely inspirational. Yet, for all that greatness, we saw it very infrequently.
However, those highlights and brief moments of excellence make it easy to remember Davis fondly. And while this injury might mark the end of his career, it's also worth noting that few players are as well-equipped for life after basketball as Baron. He's produced a documentary, has shown interest in fashion, and has a sense of the world outside of his profession. The same qualities that made him a frustrating player — particularly an occasional lack of commitment and focus — make him a more interesting human being. If Baron Davis is in fact finished as an NBA player, he will be neither gone nor forgotten.
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